SYDNEY, New South Wales, Australia --
Her eyes lit up with excitement as the visitors stood by her bed dressed in their uniforms. The young girl’s shyness couldn’t mask her giddiness at the situation while the beeping of the heart monitor sang the tune of her exhilaration.
Marines and Sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and USS Bonhomme Richard visited the Sydney Children’s Hospital, here, Aug. 19.
The visit to the hospital came on the final day of the service members’ liberty period in Sydney following the bilateral exercise Talisman Saber 2013. Twenty Marines and Sailors volunteered to spend their remaining time in the city visiting local children in need of brightened spirits. The group interacted with children with a range of ailments from minor rugby injuries to those that required months of intensive treatment.
“The children have been so excited ever since we told them a couple of days ago the American military will be visiting,” said Jenni L. Corbett, community liaison officer with the children’s hospital. “Not only is it a great gesture on (the Marines and Sailors) part, but the positive interaction helps a little in some of the children’s healing.”
The Marines and Sailors toured the hospital wards and interacted with numerous children. Activities ranged from playing video games and painting to simply sitting on the bed for a talk. The service members also handed out small gifts, including photos of the USS Bonhomme Richard.
The service members hoped their small acts of kindness would have a positive impact on the children living through such difficulty.
“Instead of playing with friends or going to school, the focus of their lives right now is the tubes in their arms and dreading the possibility they may have to stay longer,” said Sgt. Cesar M. Fierro, chief scout sniper with Headquarters Co., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st MEU, and a native of Nogales, Ariz. “They get excited for anyone to just sit and talk. Anything that isn’t a routine of their day helps them a lot through their healing.”
Although the visit from the Marines and Sailors lasted just a few hours, both parties came away with a memory that could last a lifetime.
“(My son) was so happy to see the Americans from the ship and get a picture with them,” said Belinda Vermeulen, mother of one of the children at the hospital. “He’s been having a hard time of it lately, but seeing the Americans show genuine interest in him and talk about his interests was so helpful. He’s never going to forget them.”
Following the port visit, the Marines and Sailors continue on their regularly scheduled Fall Patrol. The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region and is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU.